Fastening is an area of the building industry going through rapid change. Tradies are calling for safer, quicker and more reliable tools. Here’s a look at 3 types of nail gun – battery, gas and air – and the strengths of each.
The hammer-and-nail method of joining two materials together hasn’t gone away, but since the first pneumatic – or ‘air’ – fastening tool was introduced in the 1950s, it’s become a lot easier to build a house. In the ’80s, gas-powered tools were introduced to Australia, the first cordless offering. While this was great for mobility, it also increased the running costs with on-going cartridge requirements, often higher levels of maintenance and users having to sniff gas odours all day. While battery fastening tools did exist before 2014, it was DEWALT’s 18V Li-Ion dual-speed cordless framer, the DCN692, which really broke ground in the move to battery nailers. So, with these different methods, which platform is right for you? We broke down the advantages of each.
Battery and gas nailers provide a distinct advantage in terms of their mobility on the job site, by saving you from having to watch where the air hose / compressor is. On the other hand, pneumatics typically have a quicker firing rate than the other platforms and also deal better with longer nails and harder grades of wood.
Air nailers will keep going providing the motor on the compressor continues to operate… which, if well maintained, can certainly outperform other platforms. But let’s not forget the need for an electrical powerpoint and being anchored to the tank, as well as the compressor cost. While battery (and gas) platforms have some way to go, they’re steadily catching up because of increased Ampere-hours (Ah) on many battery platforms. That means there’s more time and nails shot between changes of batteries, and then it’s pretty easy to switch out the pack, put it on recharge, and get on with the job.
Because the motor of the tool is held within the generator for pneumatics, they’re generally easier to service. However, they do need a hose, the correct fittings, and oil for the compressor (there are oil-free, second-fix nailers available, like Bostitch’s Smartpoint Range). Gas and fuel-cell models often need their air filter cleaned regularly, and it’s often a cause of the tool’s poor performance. Battery platforms, it could be argued, need a minimal amount of maintenance. The springs in these framing nailers typically need replacing, but this is a minor task generally able to be carried out by the owner.
While air nailers are the lightest tools, battery nailers are getting lighter every year, and lots of thought is going into the design of the tool in the hand. An operator also doesn’t have to move the hose around to cover the job.
Which platform should you buy?
If you’re a chippie, and all-round performance (in terms of initial set-up cost, running costs, performance, run-time ergonomics and maintenance) is judged collectively, it could be argued that no single solution is good for all applications. A combination such as pneumatic and battery tools best fits the bill, depending on the job. You can’t dismiss a good air nailer for its power and reliability – but if you need to do a quick job in a tight spot or up in the rafters, pick up the battery tool.